School Daze"The only thing that is constant is change." -- Heraclitus
For many of us, the fall season signals major change. Most notably, students have transitioned from summer mode to school mode. The lazier days of summer are a distant memory and months of hard work loom on the horizon.
Initially, most of us look forward to the new school year. There is excitement about reconnecting with school friends, meeting new teachers, and learning new subjects But the excitement can quickly fade as the rigor of the academic year becomes apparent. Alarm clocks are buzzing before dawn. Text books take the place of casual reading. And homework usurps the evenings.
It can be overwhelming-for students AND parents. The fall season can be particularly challenging for students dealing with ADD/ADHD, learning differences, and other executive functioning challenges. Parents--you are in a unique position to help your child navigate the new academic year. Here are proven strategies to make the ensuing months easier for your child...and you!
- Establishing routines and structure. Consider what has not worked well over the past few weeks and implement appropriate changes. For example, if it is difficult for your child to get ready in the mornings and out the door on time, work together to create a schedule and checklist that will facilitate the process. Identify tasks that are repetitive and can be systematized. Have your child wake up the same time each morning and follow the same routine. Put a checklist by the door as a reminder of what needs doing and what needs to accompany your child to school. A rote process will make for a smoother morning, and a smoother morning will set the stage for a calmer, more productive day.
- Create a collaborative plan for completing homework. Work with your child to identify his or her preferred conditions. For example, perhaps your child needs a 30-minute break and a healthy snack after school before starting homework. Or perhaps he would benefit from a brisk walk before cracking open a book. Some children work better in a quiet room. Others prefer background music. Some need a desk while others prefer spreading out on the floor. Determine what works for your child and make it happen.
- Help your child with time management.Children with executive functioning challenges often have trouble planning and prioritizing their work, and staying on task until it is completed. Spend a few minutes daily with your child to create a written roadmap of what needs to be accomplished. Be sure that you both agree on what needs to be done. If possible, assign time estimates to each task and playfully challenge your child to "beat the clock."
- Break down big projects into small pieces.Display boards, research papers, science fair projects, and the like can overwhelm students. Work with your child to make a project plan that breaks the project into small pieces with discrete steps.
- Create opportunities for down time.Children with executive functioning challenges often work at a slower pace. Thus, it is easy for school routines and homework to crowd out down time. Build into the schedule some time for your child to let loose and enjoy himself.